Friday, October 29, 2010
The next stop of our yatra was Varanasi,a city which has been continuosly inhabited since ages.We were in train & in air conditioned comfort.oing piuja.Now,we were in the plains & so the topography had changed.There was elephant grass from which mats are made .Thse mats are used as asans for performing holy rituals.
We reached Benares in the afternoon.At the auto stand itself, there was a big argument. My jeth phoned his travel agent in Bangalore who had booked rooms for us at a hotel.The hotel name was heard as Van Shri .The rikshaw wallahs insisted that the said hotel was very far. My jeth said that it was just a stone's throw away from the station.Since we were getting stranded at the station without the argument coming to an end,we requested that we be transported in the autos to the hotel with our extensive bags .We were on our way & we indeed found that the hotel was very near but there was a hitch. The hotel 's name was Vani Shree. The auto wallahs had a good laugh as they repeated that my jeth had named another hotel .In all this fight,I had to intervene as my jeth cannot speak nor understand Hindi & obviously the rickshaw drivers do not know Kannada or Tamil. Since ,I know both Hindi & Kannada,I was the bridge over troubled waters.
We went to our allotted rooms .There was no question of partaking any food in the hotel as it served non-vegetarain food .By the time,we finished bath, it was evening.We decided to visit the Kashi Vishwanath temple.There were some auto wallahas who were attached to the hotel.They warned us that as it had rained heavily the last night,there was water logging all over the city & hence traffic would be so slow that it was futile to visit the temple.Then my hubby & his brother decided to go to a nearby hotel to pick up some idlis for all us to feed as all were famished.Idlis were accordingly brought & gulped down in no time.
Now,my hubby suggested that the men should visit the Kashi Vishwanath temple that day itself as the next day,the men would be busy in the tithi ritual ( shradha ).So,I was to accompany my hubby & his three brothers to the temple.I was needed to translate & make conversation understandable.We went by the same autos who were telling us that "Any road repairs including laying of drains yields results very late ( if ever it does,that is ) as this is U.P.-Maya nagari !"My visit alongwith the men was not taken too kindly by the other females but they just kept quiet as they did not want to question their hubbies.All were feeling that I was acting very smart because I knew Hindi .
As the Ayodhya verdict was going to be announced in a few days,there was a lot of security at the temple.We were told to deposit our belongings in private lockers available at the entrance & proceed inside.We had darshan & almost emptied our pockets of cash.Cash is allowed past all security ! Maybe, if there is no cash,all entry would have been banned.We are all Vaishnavas & so how did we visit this temple.Well,it is said that the Kashi Vishvanath Emple is worshipping Vishnu in Linga form ! The Shiv linga is actually a saligrama in linga form.So,that's how we were visiting the temple.Or so ,we Vaishnavas would like all to believe.I was glad that I was able to visit the famed temple of Kashi-Shiva or Vishnu does not matter.But I am impressed with this that Vishnu is worshipped in the linga form at Varanasi Vishwanth temple.If I possessed even an iota of this imagination ,I would have made a name for myself in the literary world ! Then we wound our way to the Annapurna Devi temple .& had a darshan.
I must mention here that Kashi is a very dirty city.All along the path or paths one takes to visit any temple,one comes across heaps of garbage piled up.I wish all pilgrims could atleast try not to make the city more dirty.After one looks at all the dirt around whatever pious thoughts that have arisen die a quick death.One just wishes to just look at the idols & makes hasty retreats.otherwise,the visits to Benares would be futile .I believe that the retail revolution in sachets is making us generate rubbish in wholesale ! Varansi locals are also extremely fond of paan .In addition to all the garbage,there are paan stains all around wherever one can look.In these days,paan is getting replaced by gutka in sachets.Gutka chokes lungs & the sachets clog the drains.So it is a double jeopardy.
Kashi seems to be a place wherein many generations seem to co-exist in this age .I saw that shops were selling unique brass toys like gas stoves,lamps water carriers -all of these were so tiny & unique that they can adorn the showcase.Moreover,shops were also selling readymade dresses for Gods & goddesses with ready made jewels to adorn the idols.Other shops sold imitation jewellery for the generation next.Hence,I felt hat the city existed in numerous time wraps.
We went to our Mutt after the darshan where we had upma .The next day,the men left for shardha rituals to be done to a Mutt.The ladies including myself went to visit many temples.We also shopped for small brass idols & copper pots of Ganga jal.Later we went to a Benarasi sari workshop.We got some sarees which were of silk but not the Banarasi silks.My family hailing from Chennai is quite skeptical about Silks other than Kanjeervaram.After that we left for the Mutt to have lunch there.The men also arrived there to join us.Food served at the Mutt is delicious though no rotis are served .It is basically rice,sambhar,rasam,a sweet like a kheer or Mysore pak,chutni,Gooju,curds,etc.In the Mutts,masalas are ground on a daily basis & used & this makes for tasty meals ! Moreover, all food is initially offered to the Lord who in turn makes it taste sumptous.
After the food,it was suggested that we take a boat ride on the Ganges to look at the numerous ghats dotting the city.There was a lot of bargaining going on .In the midst of all this,my impatient hubby ruffled some feathers as he felt that his family was interested in going in for free boat ride.We all finally took a ride & noticed the various ghats surrounding the holy river.We had heard that many bodies are burnt incompletely & thrown into the Ganges.We saw the ghats wherein the bodies were being thrown but as we were quite away,we were unable to see clearly.We also climbed up on the ghats to have a darshan at the Beni Madhav temple.
Then we returned to the hotel & started packing.We were to go by road to Gaya ,the next stop in our yatra.The vehicle had already arrived when we landed at e hotel but it did not have a carrier.It was too small to seat all of us who were nearly fifteen ( nearly as there were sixteen people including two kids ).It was the travel agent's plan that we should travel to Gaya by road.But the arrangements made by him were lacking in everything.So,hastily another vehicle had to be arranged which took two hours & we started our journey to Gaya.The luggage nearly occupied half the space in our vehicle .My family had brought all dhotis,sarees,brass pots etc to be given as daana to brahmins from Chennai.My opinion that we must give cash instead of carrying luggage did not carry any weight.My devar told me that new age brahmins are very particular that they must be granted cash generously & so dhotis & other items are given away.This does not mean that these things are cheap.Dhotis are also highly priced now.Some priests insist that dhotis costing above five hundred bucks are only suitable.Human attitude is to fleece a person /s completely once it is realised the said person is willing to loosen his purse strings.
We stopped enroute to pick up some bananas for consumption by men as next day ,tithi was to be performed at Gaya.For dinner,we stopped at a dhaba as ladies & the kids were hungry.The dhaba owner assured us that they served only vegetarian fare.Our discreet enquiries made him enquire if we would take raw onion as salad.A vehment no from me got him smiling as if he meant to say that he had got it right.We resumed our journey after dinner.The drivers also dined at the dhaba reluctantly as there was no meat or fish .